Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday August 21, 2007



Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley Art Center is an undervisited jewel. This tiny , beautiful building astrides a creek just east of Live Oak Park, 1275 Walnut St., 644-6893, It feaures changing exhibits of local artisits and other themes of interest to the community exquisitely displayed. The site is serene and beautiful.  

Ruth Bird 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Proceed to the foot of University Avenue and over the viaduct. Continue straight (except for the bend) down Marina Boulevard to its end and park. Walk to the end of the pier. 

You will find yourself in the middle of a sphere, whose equator consists of buildings, bridges, ships, peaks, and ranges, even lights. 

This is best done late in the day, although pre-breakfast is cool, too. 

Phil Allen 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I usually admire and agree with Becky O’Malley’s editorials, but this time I could not disagree more. Obama may be very attractive by his youth and forcefulness but he is immature and not prepared for such an important job as the presidency. He seems like a young dog on the attack and lumping the Bushes and Clintons together was ridiculous. When he raised the possibility of sending troops to Pakistan, it raised the specter of another endless Iraq war, totally antagonizing the Muslim world when diplomacy and helping their economy can do more good. Obama needs to grow up. 

There are a lot of very good candidates running. My favorite is John Edwards, who is totally intent on helping the poor and starting a comprehensive health care plan in this country. I believe he would also make a good diplomat and might be able to repair the horrible damage that has been done by this presidency. Let us make friends, not war. 

Andree Leenaers 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Judith Scherr, in her Aug. 17 article, has finally punctured the inflated myth that there is anything at all wrong with Telegraph Avenue that can be blamed on the poor. Bravo! And please issue her some Kevlar. 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

An anonymous caller to the Daily Planet, who claims to be a frequent reader of the paper, left a charming message accusing me of liberal hypocrisy based on his notion that I haven’t drawn a cartoon about Rent Board Member Chris Kavanagh’s questionable Berkeley residency. The man’s theory is that I don’t criticize leftist people or causes, and that I—and others who fall into his broad category of “liberals”—only see what we want to see. 

I would refer the misinformed caller to the Aug. 14 issue of the Daily Planet, which included precisely the cartoon he accuses me of avoiding, regarding Kavanagh’s legal and ethical hedging. I would also refer the caller to the dozen or so cartoons I drew about the Berkeley mayoral election, which included criticisms of Mayor Bates and all his challengers, each one of whom would certainly identify themselves as left of Bates. He might also check out the many cartoons in which I have pointed out the hypocrisy, timidity and lack of vision of the Democrats in Congress over the past seven years. This is just to get him started. Other examples may be found at 

While I certainly skew left in my politics, the primary subject matter for political cartoonists is the hypocrisy, cowardice, inflated egos, and general wrong-headedness of politicos of all stripes. And while there is certainly no shortage of material in local, state or federal government, I am always eager for more. Thus I strongly urge the caller to seek public office.  

Justin DeFreitas 

Daily Planet Editorial Cartoonist 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

With its second walk, 50 percent more South and West Berkeley youth walked to protest violence, reclaimed their neighborhoods, cleaned up and noted needed changes. What a model youth have set for Berkeley’s adults!  

Led by Berkeley United Youth in Action (BUYA) and Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA), walk participants began building a better community and changing mistaken perceptions about youth. Isn’t it amazing how much difference a walk makes? It would be great to have Youth Community Walk continue as a regular event, documenting ongoing community change.  

Walk&Roll Berkeley congratulates everyone involved in this effort. If your youth organization, neighborhood association, church group, child care, senior, community center or other group would like to organize walks or learn more about walkable communities, contact Walk&Roll Berkeley at 883-9725 or e-mail . 

Wendy Alfsen  

Coordinator, Walk&Roll Berkeley 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

One of our city councilmembers thinks it is a good idea to appoint lots of students to city commissions. Your recent article states that he has 10 current student appointees (out of around 40 total).  

At a recent fundraiser in Omaha, Nebraska, Sen. Obama said, “When people say they are looking for experience, what they really mean is judgment. The assumption is experience is a proxy for judgment and in some cases it is...” but, because he has less experience than his competition, he went on to address exceptions to that assumption and gave examples of people who had lots of experience and no judgment, e.g., Dick Cheney. His general statement is easy to agree with. I know that what I want above all in elected officials (and appointed commissioners) is good judgment and good thinking, and yes I assume that usually, although not always, good judgment goes with experience.  

If we can agree that it is desirable for councilmembers to appoint persons who have good judgment to our boards and commissions, what is the best way for a councilmember to accomplish that? Does it include deliberately de-selecting people with experience in the interest of “diversity”? Or is it possible that it might not be good judgment to hand over a significant portion of the appointments in our city’s policy advisory bodies to inexperienced students just because they are students? 

Can we not simply observe the obvious about why this particular councilmember appoints lots of students? His district is composed primarily of students, and students elected him. For him to proselytize his appointment criteria as having a broader significance for the cause of human rights in Berkeley, putting it in the same league with issues of race and racism, is disingenuous. On the other hand, I suppose it is possible that he could instead be one of those exceptions that Sen. Obama referred to as having lots of experience and no judgment. 

Dennis White  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have received several phone calls from folks responding to my letter to the editor regarding fluoride in water. For those of you who would like more information about fluoride, you can contact a local holistic health group: Health Medicine Center, 3799 Mt. Diablo Blvd. (adjacent to Lafayette Reservoir), Lafayette CA 94549. (925) 962-3799. 

These folks put on regular Health Forums, and recently did a series of these on fluoride. 

Also, there is an organization called Protect Our Water Alliance, who is concerned about the problems with fluoridation. They can be reached at Protect Our Water is circulating a petition to Congress, asking them to re-consider the mandatory fluoridation of our water. 

Yolanda Huang 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Green Party candidates are being systematically shut out of debates all over the country. When this happens, democracy loses. Voters have a right to know which candidate best represents their values. When debate sponsors bar candidates, they violate this right. Recent polls show that the majority of Americans believe the war in Iraq was wrong and want to bring our troops home now. The majority of Americans support the right for everyone to have healthcare, living wages, and renewable energy choices. Americans are disgusted by the influence of corporations in politics and want a change to politics as usual. Democratic and Republican candidates all across the United States take millions in corporate campaign contributions. The public has a right to hear from candidates from the Green Party who represent We the People over big business interest. Please get the word out there so we as Americans can make a change for the better. Will the Daily Planet do this for us? For the people, show the truth on the Green Party and how they are fighting for the people unlike our Republicans and Democrats who only hold the values of the big corporations that support their pocket book. We need change in 2008, we need a better way for Americans we need to break the boundaries that have been holding us back. If the media don’t show the truth then what good are the media ?  

Robert Gapen 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s the damn trees! They attract aphids who secrete the goo. If only the city would replace these trees with a more suitable street tree, not only would the sidewalks not stick to our shoes but the buildings next to the trees would not have the black rain on them and their windows, and cars parked beneath would not drive away with nearly unremovable spots. Also, it is not just University. Try walking down Addison some time and then tracking the goo and the leaves stuck to the bottom of your foot into the house. It is an unpleasant experience all the way around. 

Constance Wiggins 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We have until Aug. 24 to submit written comments for the draft environmental impact report on two gigantic new Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory projects 

• Helios Energy Research Facility for biofuel research with BP, including 160,000-square-foot building, access road, and parking lot. 

• Computational Research and Theory Facility, including a 150,000-square-foot facility for computer and offices, plus access roads. 

These projects planned for Strawberry Canyon are next to and associated with the six-story Nanotech “Molecular Foundry.” This frightening project was slipped in without City Council requesting an EIR, under the “improved university relations” of a Mayor Bates majority. The new projects are two of approximately 15 huge buildings LBNL would like to build in Strawberry Canyon. These developments would include deforestation and paving acres of Canyon land, and yet are being called “Green” by LBNL. The area is still contaminated from previous Lab/DOE projects, is crisscrossed with earthquake fault zones, and is at risk of fire and landslide.The Canyon contains an aquifer with pristine waters. 

If you send your comments as questions, that will ensure they are answered. (And saves time!) 

For some terrific articles on this subject: 

• See Richard Brenneman’s Daily Planet headline article covering the lively public Scoping Session for this project (Aug. 10), and his other articles on LRDP, biofuels research, BP, UC dumping toxics in Richmond. View on line. 

• Relevant Contra Costa Times articles on line: Lab workers suffer fallout (July 1) quoting former Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore Lab employees who have become very sick and are trying to get federal compensation for illness. For the photos and stories, go to Also see CC Times “Reconsidering Nuclear Power” (July 5) quotes UCB Labs Director Dr. Steven Chu saying that “nuclear power must be considered.” 

Written comments may be sent by regular mail or e-mail to: Jeff Philliber, Environmental Planning Coordinator,  

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, One Cyclotron Road, MS 90J-0120, Berkeley, CA 94720. 

Merrilie Mitchell  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a tenant of Dr. Rash B. Ghosh, I am distressed to hear of the City of Berkeley’s misguided requirements to make expensive structural changes and to coerce the owner of the building at 2507 McGee Ave. The city planners should be embarrassed by this debacle. 

A full year and a half late, construction completed in March 1998, and under the dubious guidance of Mark Rhoades, the approval for the construction was arbitrarily reversed in a meeting where Dr. Ghosh was unable to attend. The City of Berkeley continues with its plans to give the building to the developer, Ali Kashani, Mr. Rhoades’ future employer. Does this debate not reek of the profiteering pursued by our current president’s legislation? I ask the members of the Berkeley City Council, are you no better than the president whom you have voted to impeach? This action is a shameful performance of coercion of an outstanding citizen, shame on you. 

Dr. Ghosh took over this building in 1991 and has worked consistently to improve it according to the city’s direction. This was built in 1992 with a separate building permit approved by the inspector, Mr. Robert Kandel. His plans were approved by city zoning and building for construction which was duly executed. In a March 4 e-mail, Bill Coburn, the architect for the project since 2000, writes, “During the time I have worked on this project all effort has been put onto the third floor excluding the eastern portion of the third floor.” Now Assistant City Attorney Zach Cowan wants to remove the eastern portion of the roof which has existed for fifteen years! 

I have now been a tenant of Dr. Ghosh for many months and assure you that this building is in an excellent state of repair. That said, and with the architect’s instance that the construction was done in accord with court orders, how can this debate still continue? 

Dr. Rash B. Ghosh is an unselfish scientist and constructive citizen, a kind neighbor, and a compassionate landlord. He is the founder of the International Institute of the Bengal Basin, a non-profit organization that is strongly supported and advised by three Nobel Laureates, Linus Pawling, Glenn T. Seaborg, and Charles Townes. For his many years of good works to our world and community, including housing low income and senior citizens of Berkeley, is this how we thank him? Do we reward a man who is an advocate for the comfort and well-being of Berkeley tenants by taking away his home? This cannot be your solution. Please reconsider this outrageous issue and come to a more responsible solution. 

Steven Wilson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is about time Berkeley residents knew more about Planning and Development Director Mark Rhoades, who resigned his $133,000-per-year job on Aug. 10. Some city staff told the Planet that Rhoades might work for developer Ali Kashani, who affirms that possibility. 

We are tenants at 2507 McGee Ave. in Berkeley, a property Mr. Rhoades wanted to put in receivership. Who is the proposed receiver for our home? Ali Kashani. 

But we aren’t the only people who know Rhoades’ methods. The Planet quotes Sharon Hudson: “Under the cover of public service, Rhoades skillfully manipulated rules to benefit favored developers, and destroyed trust between Berkeley residents and their government.” Councilmember Dona Spring asked whether a Planning staff member [How about the director?] “should be such a strong advocate for one aspect of development ...” Planner Steve Wollmer: “Rhoades did much to damage the City, and now will be on the other side.” 

We who live at 2507 McGee Ave. know. Mr. Rhoades has affected our lives badly. Dr. Rash B. Ghosh, the founder of a non-profit at this address, and the owner of the property, bought it in 1991 when it was blighted, and with city encouragement, began at once to remedy its greatly deferred maintenance. He got proper permits, did the work exactly as specified, and city inspectors approved and signed for the completed work—such as reinforcing an earthquake-weakened foundation, and re-roofed the building. Several years later, the city decided, “We should not have issued those permits,” and made demands that Dr. Ghosh undo needed repairs he had made. 

Rhoades took the issue to Municipal Court, where Commissioner John Rantzmann, on hearing city staff admit their errors, created a settlement offer. But Rhoades rejected it, and the case was dismissed. But then Rhoades took the matter to City Council, and held hearings when the building owner was out of the country. He persuaded City Council to declare the property “a public nuisance.” Rhoades also urged the council to insist on expensive changes back to the property’s former structure (including to its weak, original, city-rejected foundation). City staff said they knew Dr. Ghosh couldn’t afford those (unnecessary) changes. But Rhoades insisted the property go into receivership otherwise. 

Now, although Dr. Gosh has received condo conversion approval, Rhoades still pushed for the same pointless changes, or that the building be put into receivership. Rhoades’ developer buddy Ali Kashani is his first choice of receiver, despite that the Institute—a non-profit—holds one mortgage and has compete ability to be the receiver, if one is needed. Meanwhile, we stand to lose our homes and work at the non-profit International Institute of the Bengal Basin, which does much to help the ecology of the United States and Asia. 

What a legacy Mr. Rhoades leaves! We hope it will be reversed, and soon, before we lose everything, for no one’s gain but a developer’s. 

Megan C. Timberlake 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Being a dedicated Berkeley bus rider, I’d like to offer some transit-oriented help to Zelda Bronstein (The Public Eye, Aug. 10). First, bus line 43 in her neighborhood is now called line 18. AC Transit inundated the buses with fliers explaining this and the other June changes well before the changes were made. I’ll admit that even somebody like me thought that too much was changed at one time. Regular riders of the changed lines probably adapted quickly, but it was certainly confusing for people who don’t ride the buses frequently. I make it my business to keep current about riding the Berkeley buses. I don’t look down on people without a high level of this urban skill. Other people have complained to me about the menu-driven run-around one gets on the phone or on the website. Personally, I never have used the phone to get bus information. I do use the Web, but I go for the MTC’s “Trip Planner.” 

The Trip Planner accepts a starting and ending street address (always give “st,” “ave,” “blvd,” etc.) and generates a list of buses and times to do the trip. A little thoughtfulness and common sense are required, because like all software, the planner sometimes comes up with absurd solutions. I can usually use the Planner find out which bus serves my destination, then call up the bus schedule if I am unhappy with the details the planner gives me. I don’t think transit patrons should depend on any of AC Transit’s information systems for regular bus riding. It’s much more comfortable to know the system – which buses go where for what you need. This skill can be quickly acquired with a little practice and patience. I’ve got to the point where I know how to get anywhere in Berkeley on a bus, where to catch those buses and about how often they run. I don’t carry bus schedules at all—nor do I know the detailed schedules of most buses. As a public service, and because I think it’s a fun challenge, I’m willing to help anyone figure out bus transportation anywhere in Berkeley, Albany, North Oakland, or El Cerrito. I’ll even try dealing with any other part of the Bay Area. Just send an e-mail to No charge. No menu. 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Obviously, I believe that my opinion that guns are properly used in self-defense correlates with the facts. I would only be dishonest if I gave an opinion that I knew to be untrue. Which makes no sense. I never wrote that Clear was dishonest, only wrong. Clear’s assertion that people without guns are more likely to walk away is meaningless. How would he know? If more would-be robbers were deterred by guns that would be great rather than just reading about more victims in your Police Blotter. By the way, I’ve known a number of people who lived in Switzerland and they tell me that gun ownership there is widespread contrary to James Sayre. If there’s one book that can shed light here it’s More Guns, Less Crime by John R. Lott.  

It is a better venue for exploring the issue in depth than brief letters. 

Michael P. Hardesty 


P.S.: Would someone tell Mr. Clear that Trader Joe’s, Wholesale Outlet and Berkeley Bowl ARE supermarkets? 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The discussion about guns continues, and some writers have mentioned the importance of stating facts as opposed to opinion. Here are some facts and their sources: (1) Fifteen national polls, including those organized by Gallup/L.A. Times, imply that there are 760,000 to 3.6 million defensive uses of any type of gun per year (p. 11, from More Guns Less Crime by John R. Lott, Jr: a valuable in-depth statistical study of the correlation between crime and gun control laws). (2) Some 98 percent of the time armed citizens merely have to brandish their gun to stop an attack. Contrary to popular belief, criminals take the gun away from the victim in less than 1% of such confrontations (p. 240, Guns and Violence, The English Experience, by Joyce Lee Malcolm). (3) In England, guns have been all but banned. Between 1989 and 1995, violent crime in England soared 500 percent. Since 1995, English rates of violent crime have been higher than American rates (p. 225, ibid.). Robberies in England and Wales were 1.4 times higher than in America and far more likely to take place while the residents were at home (p.165, ibid.). (4) The rate of violent crimes was found to be 81 percent lower in U.S. states with laws allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons (p. 428, ibid.). (5) 36 U.S. states presently have “shall issue” concealed carry laws which allow anyone who can legally own a gun to obtain a concealed carry permit. (This is an especially important point for those taking a position against concealed carry to consider. The argument often is, that if we allow people to carry concealed, loaded firearms, there’ll be a bloodbath. In the 36 states where this HAS been allowed, there has been NO bloodbath. In Florida, for instance, only “one fifth of one percent of concealed carry permit holders had their permits revoked” (p.76 Shooting Straight by Wayne LaPierre). It should be noted that, as is the case in Nevada, CCW permits can be revoked for reasons not having to do with use of firearms. Getting a DUI will cause a revocation of a CCW. (6) Within a few weeks when my papers arrive, I will have permits to carry concealed weapons in 31 states, and if I chose could get permits to carry in the other 5. Some people in rural counties can obtain permits to carry in California (and these allow carry throughout the state), but urban counties such as Alameda are notorious for denying residents such permits. Does it make sense that in 36 states I can legally carry a loaded gun on my person most everywhere I go, but that I cannot do so in my own state?  

The above facts have to do with self-defense from criminal acts. Our founding fathers also had the concern that the people be armed so that they could defend themselves from an oppressive government, which is what they had just experienced. Aaron Zelman, who heads the organization Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, stated, based on his research in the book Death by Gun Control: “Gun control laws cleared the way for 7 major genocides between 1915 and 1980.”  

Facts are important. In an anti-gun climate as we have in the Bay Area, those advocating gun control can readily find support when they make statements or pass gun control laws that have no foundation in facts. It is important to look at whole patterns, statistical studies, and not simply form an opinion based on a fear or prejudice that one has. That Chauncey Bailey could not have saved his life if he’d been armed does not mean that no one who is armed can defend their lives. (See the book Thank God I Had a Gun by Chris Bird, which gives several examples of people who saved their lives because they were armed.) Blown Away by Caitlin Kelly is a good book that presents both sides of the gun debate.  

Deborah Cloudwalker 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

Please print this letter that we mailed to the city attorney. 

Dear Ms. Albuquerque, 

We are puzzled that we received a response from the city clerk (copy enclosed) to our July 15 letter addressed to the mayor and City Councilmembers; Subject: July 17, 2007, Meeting Violated the Brown Act, Council Procedures, a copy of which was received in your office. 

We were surprised that the city clerk offered legal opinions in her letter and would appreciate your informing us if you concur. 

Our letter pointed out that the 20-minute presentation by an EBMUD director at the July 17 council meeting was not listed on the agenda. The Brown Act requires that all matters to come before a legislative body’s meeting must be included in the meeting’s agenda and posted 72 hours before the meeting. Allowing a presentation not listed on the agenda not only violated the Brown Act, but the Council’s own Rules of Procedure and Order which state “any request for a presentation to the Council will be submitted as an agenda item and follow the timelines for submittal of agenda reports” (Section III Agenda C.4. Scheduling a Presentation, Resolution 63,690-N.S.) 

The city clerk states the mayor introduced this 20-minute presentation on a potential water shortage as a ceremonial item, and therefore agenda listing was not required. A presentation by any name is still a presentation! Calling it by another name does not excuse non-compliance with the law.  

Our letter also brought to the attention of the City Council that correspondence received by councilmembers, and referred to by a speaker at the Public Hearing on the B Town Dollar Store, was requested at the meeting by an audience member. The requester was told that the letter was only available “on-line.” This also violated the Brown Act (Gov. Code 54957.5), which states “…writings, when distributed to a legislative body…by any person in connection with a matter subject to…consideration at a public meeting of the body… shall be made available on request without delay.” The city clerk’s response, that there was a copy of the letter in a supplemental packet in the viewing binder in Council Chambers and a copy in the lobby which someone may have removed, neither justifies the answer given to the requester, nor meets the requirements of the law. Ample copies of supplemental agenda packets should be available to the public, and, if they run out and requests are made for more, a clerk directed to make additional copies. 

We reiterate our expectation, spelled out in our July 25 letter, that these violations of the Brown Act be cured and corrected by the council through rescinding the actions taken on July 17, the meeting having been held in violation of open meeting laws, and a meeting be rescheduled to revisit the items on that agenda. 

Jane Welford 

Executive Secretary